So, I’ve heard it before. Many times. That question folks like to ask directly after they learn that I have six children and actually stay HOME (gasp! The HORROR!) with them all day every day. The question is usually worded a bit differently depending on whom is asking it. But the basic wrap up of it is “Holy CRAP! You must be losing your MIND being stuck home with them all day! Dontcha wanna put them in daycare? Betcha can’t wait til they grow up! Dontcha regret not having a career???”
These folks just assume my life is filed with monotony and misery. They think I see my children as shackles. They figure I crave freedom from this motherhood gig like a man wandering the desert craves water.
So, lemme just clear this up right now. Look guys, I don’t envy you 9-5ers. I truly don’t. I cant even jokingly say I envy the HOURS of a 9-5er. Because as super swell a few more solid hours of sleep would be, I really love those pre-dawn wakings that my youngest has. Nursing him in the stillness of a sleeping house. Strapping a clean adorable cloth diaper on him and snuggling him close. He won’t be this small forever. So, I treasure those moments.
I treasure all the moments. I really do. Sure, I’ll admit there certainly can be monotony in this whole Stay At Home gig. Especially when it comes to cleaning. I vacuum at least once a day, do dishes 3 times a day, clean the bathroom twice a day . (oh trust me on that, that last one is NECCESARY!) But once you get past that grunt labor stuff….man is life at home with my Littles SO fun! I don’t envy my friends who go out and party. I had those days. I wouldnt trade THIS life for that one. Not on your life.
We make playdough. We draw. We paint. We have impromptu dance parties in the livingroom. We build dams in the creek down the road. We hike. We eat picnic lunches in teh backyard. We walk barefoot down windy dirt roads. We have water balloon fights. And shaving cream fights. And pillow fights. And ice cream fights. We knead the dough for homemade bread. We read literary classics. We wrestle. We sword fight. We learn about history and religion and sociology and then discuss these topics in depth. We laugh. We argue. We pray out loud.
Its life and its messy and silly and crazy and chaotic and beautiful and wonderful and anything but boring.
And I love every moment of it. ❤
I heard a story years ago about a little girl who passed away unexpectedly. While she was alive she loved drawing butterflies. Everywhere. The crayoned butterflies in an array of bright hues covered her bedroom walls and the fridge in the kitchen. After her death, her mother was reminded of her daughters tenacity and spirit every time she saw a butterfly flit by. The story of her life and subsequent death was written by her mother who explained that now whenever she sees a butterfly she thinks of how very precious time is and to never take life for granted. That story resonated in my soul and I carried that same lesson into my own journey. Whenever I see a butterfly I think automatically of the fragility of life and how I ought to be aware of the precious treasure my loved ones are.
I don’t always tell my children how much they mean to me. Mainly because even as a writer who has a fairly extensive vocabulary, I can’t imagine ever truly being able to put into words the depth and ferocious passion of my love for them. but often times, I simply get caught up in the ebb and flow of day to day life. The house is filled with the sound of running feet and arguments over pettiness and whining over toys. The dogs are barking at nothing. The phone is ringing. Dinner is due to be begun in twenty minutes but I forgot to thaw out the meat. Bills need to be paid, emails need to be replied to, the laundry pile needs to be dealt with before it eats me and the baby has teeth coming in and prefers chewing on my nipple while breastfeeding, even though he owns a vast array of teething tablets, gels and toys. Basically, life gets stressful. And in the midst of dissolving conflict and problem solving and soothing tears and fears, I forget. Sometimes I simply forget to tell them “Hey, I love the heck outta ya, kid. More than I can even put into words right now. But just wanted ya to know, you flipped my entire world upside down when you came outta me and I thank you for it. For real.”
I do tell them. I really do. Don’t call me a mean mom. I give hugs and kisses and snuggles and say I’m proud of them and I love them. I do.
But if I am being honest here, the ratio of times I get on their case over obeying me or cleaning up their toys in comparison to how many times i simply say I Love You is pretty much a totally uneven comparison.
But I think, when my sons are grown and out in the world living their own lives, I truly think, they will look back and know, just KNOW, that I loved them. So very much. Because what I lack in words at times, I make up for with small gestures. That seemingly insignificant stuff that really turns out to be the BIG stuff in the end. Like pancakes. I make my kids the best bomb diggity cool mom pancakes ever. Fluffy with chocolate chips or fresh fruit. Apple pie pancakes with cinnamon and fresh apple slices. Banana pancakes with powdered sugar on top. I make bazillions of silver-dollar-sized pancakes crammed with deliciousness. And it fills my heart with joy to watch my boys, all six of them, sitting down at the table eagerly devouring these homemade treats. I love cooking for my family. There is something so satisfying about creating a meal from scratch and watching your children truly enjoy it. It’s why I do alot of my parenting that way. From scratch I mean. Why I sew pillows by hand for each of my boys every Christmas. Why I read them books, classics that I myself adored as a child.Why I make homemade playdough. Why I spend that extra time putting effort and work into things. Because my children matter to me. Because i love them. Maybe I don’t always say so. Maybe I nag and lecture far more than I praise them. As parents, how many of us, being brutally honest, could disagree with that statement? I’m not proud of it. I’m working on it.
But at the end of the day, if my boys can look back and say “Hey, Mommy made us some awesome pancakes today!”, well thats something. In a culture inundated by fast food franchises and microwavable meals, if I can take some time in the early morning, with my coffee mug still half full and sleep gunk still in the corners of my eyes, to whip up a batch of pancakes from scratch, well, that right there is love. That right there is saying (minus the words) “Hey, I love the heck outta you. So much that I’ll take the extra time to SHOW you.Because maybe I saw a butterfly flit past my window this morning and it reminded me about life and living it and that little girl who isn’t anymore and how precious you are to me so I thought I’d SHOW you by making you pancakes.”
Come to think of it, maybe actions really DO speak louder than words. Sometimes, pancakes are love and butterflies are life. ❤
When my son was 5 he was in the midst of a temper tantrum and he called me a nigger. I have no idea where he got that word from. He obviously didn’t know what that word meant. And he sure didn’t understand at first why I reacted with such anger when he said that word. He got a lecture like none he had ever received. Not only did I make sure he knew that THAT word was totally unacceptable to be spoken, but I filled him in on the reason WHY. I sat my kindergartner down and gave him a history lesson in slavery and racism and racial profiling and the origin of that word. I didn’t sugar coat or water things down. Because I firmly believe ignorance is what spurs on so much of the worlds wars and hatred and apathy.
To delve into the reasons WHY racial profiling even exists would take me far longer than I care to write. The simple fact is, it DOES. Every day. Sadly, we are a people who tends to judge by first impressions. We see the surface and all too often that surface stops us from seeing who a person actually is. It’s not even just race that we have a knee-jerk response to. We see the heavy set man and assume he is lazy. We see the slender woman and assume she has an eating disorder. We see the black teenager and assume he has plans to sell us drugs. We see the tall high schooler and assume their future is in basketball. We meet a shy persona nd assume she is a bitch if she isnt an extrovert in the first minute we meet her.
This Zimmerman case is proof in the pudding. He saw a black young man and assumed the worst. And how he handled his assumptions is what really gets me. I understand caution. Especially in light of the fact there had been recent crime in his neighborhood done by a person who fit the description of that 15 year old child. But here’s where my question lies. If his actions were called being a vigilante, if he was simply acting as a protector of justice and doing right……if that’s how we want to paint it….
Well, what if the tables were turned? What if the man who did the shooting was a grown white man and the victim had been a 15 year old white boy? What then? We would have rallied for justice to be served. LOUDLY. We would have automatically assumed gang activity or a bad upbringing on the part of the black man who killed a white boy. The first scenario becomes hero killing suspect. The second scenario twists things up a bit, doesn’t it?
This case has received so much attention not because it was a murder. (Which it WAS) Its received so much attention because race is still a major issue in our culture. How far have we really come since the 50’s? Sure, blacks can go to school with whites now and eat in the same diners, etc… But the taboo is still there. And assumptions get made and stuck to for them. White Americans are still the lucky higher classification. And that statement makes most white Americans vastly uncomfortable. You hear people cry out in indignation “I’m not racist, I have a black friend.” As if that alone can make it right.
Things won’t really start to change in our country until the masses begin to rally up and make noise. Until enough of us can stand and say “This is not okay.” Until the blood of an innocent black child on American sidewalks is in itself enough to make a difference. To sit idly by, is basically just as much the problem as those who pull the trigger. To keep silent speaks just as loudly as those who shout out racial slurs. The saying goes “You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.”
So, I teach my sons. About love and acceptance. About taking more than 5 seconds to judge a person. (Or how about not judging a person at all?) About our history as a nation, as a people, as a world. About accepting people and seeing them as more than what is on the surface. As parents we hold that power, to pave the way for generations yet to come to know more about peace and far far less about violence in the name of racial profiling. Because in perfect love, there is no room for discrimination. Ever.
I used to think that the toughest conversation I would ever have to have with each of my sons would be the dreaded SEX talk. That was pretty naïve of me. Because life has a lot more dark moments to it, and I am well aware of that fact. I think as parents we tend to get so very caught up in the here and now moments that we forget there will be times when our children grieve or are scared or angry in a way that holds great depth or are nursing a broken heart that has been busted so badly they think it will never be repaired. Turns out the sex talk isn’t so much of a biggie. I’ve been through it with three of my sons already. The basics of why and how and who its okay for. (Why-pleasure and procreation. How-general anatomy 101. Who-consenting adults who love eachother.) That conversation was a bit awkward, but at least I had all the answers.
But than along comes the HEAVY stuff.
Like the day they saw scars on a family friend. A man they look up to and adore. And I had to sit and explain what cutting is, and why people do it. I had to tread very carefully because I was afraid, knowing they looked up to this young man, that they might want to try it simply because he does it. I had to get into the dynamics of coping skills and emotions and mental health. Deep stuff for little boys to grasp.
Then the day came when a teenage boy, another family friend passed away. He had been struggling with health issues for years and his passing wasn’t really so unexpected. But to have to walk into that funeral home with my two oldest sons by my son and watch their faces as the coffin containing their friend was carried past, mere inches from them…..that same friend whose house they used to visit and would play video games with….I watched my 9 year old turn and walk outside and though I did follow him and wrap my arms around him there on the concrete steps in front of the funeral home, I knew there was nothing in me that could rationally explain to this young boy WHY teenagers die. Or children. Or babies. As young kids we believe only really old people die. The first time we learn differently is a brutal reality check.
Death has turned out to be a biggie. Its touched us a lot in the last three years. The first time was my fiancé 2 1/2 years ago. He drowned. There was no warning, no expectation of it. I didn’t get the chance to break the news to my sons in a gentle way that the man they called Daddy had died. The police showed up at my door and broke the news. I dropped to my knees in front of my house and sobbed. My sons, being typical children, were being nosy and had been peering out the open window, more excited to see a real police officer than anything. They heard every word the officers said. My neighbor went in, took the cookies out of the oven and sat them down to try to explain things a bit better while I called Kens mom and tried answering basic questions the officers kept asking. Later that night I sat in a dark bedroom with my sons all around me in sleeping bags on the floor at my moms. My 12 year old, Mr. Stoic, the boy who had ached the deepest when his father had left us years earlier and who had taken a solid year to get close to Ken, spoke up and asked in a quivering voice with tears rolling down his face “Why does God keep taking Daddies away?”
I didn’t have an answer for him.
I had to be honest and tell him I didn’t know why.
Two and a half years later I still don’t have that answer.
Two months after Ken passed, the Chihuahua he had gotten me got hit by a car. My then-2 year old had grown very attached to Goliath the Chihuahua since his Daddy had gone to heaven. I wrapped Goliath up in a towel lovingly while Drezdyn watched. Then he went inside, lay on the couch and cried, saying “Lie-Lie. Lie-Lie” over and over as tears streamed down his cheeks. (That was how he said Goliath.)
Last winter another family friend, this time a woman we had lived across the street from a few years earlier, hung herself under a bridge. Her daughters had been to my sons birthday party. I had to sit my sons down and explain the dynamics of depression and suicide. I had to answer questions of why. Again, not much in my arsenal there. Its easier for kids to grasp the concept of death by accident (like Daddy and Goliath.) And they can even comprehend death due to evil, like murder. (They’ve seen movies. They’ve seen the news.) But death on purpose by ones own hand is such an intricate, elaborate, complicated thing…..I have known darkness of deep depression myself. And can honestly say that if it were not for my children, I doubt I would be here today. But I still struggle to explain suicide to my boys.
Then this Spring another of our dogs died. I ushered my 5 year old into the room where ButterBean lay on my bed, dying rapidly, the breath coming out of him in jagged rasps, and I stood back to watch my little boy be a very brave young man. He climbed up on that bed and curled himself around his beloved dog and informed Butterbean what a good dog he had always been and how much he loved him and how much he would miss him. And I stood there, allowing my son the space and respect he needed, not yet offering my arms to hold him, because I understood he needed this. And tears streamed down my face. Because it hit me that there are moments like this when as a mom all I can be is THERE. When they are done saying their goodbyes. Because some parts of our journey we MUST walk alone.
When my ex got violent in front of them and police had to be involved and I finally had to kick him out….I had to sit and explain to my sons about addiction and alcoholism and domestic violence. I had to explain the war in ones own mind that comes with addiction. I had to make it perfectly clear how very not okay it is to ever hurt a female. I had to reassure them he wasn’t going to be back. And still my 10 year old checked the locks every night for a solid month. I had to explain about respect and value of women and why I still believed in love because THAT violence and rage was NOT in any way love. I had to explain what I believe love to be.
That’s the heavy stuff. And I expect plenty more to come. That’s the stuff no one ever warns you about when you first become a parent. You expect the diapers and feedings. you expect the discipline issues and tantrums and adolescence and attitudes and curfews and chores and dating……
But no one bothers to mention to you that at some point you’ll be playing therapist and confidant and heart-soother. Someday you’ll be fishing in that barrel of handy answers you usually have at the ready and come up with two clenched fists that you’ll open to show nothing but emptiness. And you’ll want to shake those fists at the sky and ask God why. But then you’ll remember that it all just comes with the territory of raising little people into big people. Its all just life and living it. We’re all trying to understand the heavy stuff.
Dear Mother Teresa,
I first learned about you back when I was 14 years old, back when you were till alive and on this earth. I fell in love with your way of walking your journey of life. It was intriguing to me to hear of a person living a self-sacrificing life, filled with faith and love, in a world that all too often seems to contain nothing but greed and self-centeredness and selfishness. It drew some desire out within myself to live that same way. To put others before myself, not in some martyr way, but simply because Christianity to me has it’s basis in loving others. And acting out that love every day.
I would love to sit and talk with you. Speak with you about your inspiration, your faith, your reasons for living the way you did. I would love to hear your stories of your time in Calcutta. The souls you touched and the souls who touched you.
You are part of the reason I try to live my life that way. I emulate you in that way. Not in an idolatry way. Just in a way I try to keep in the back of my mind the way you lived your life so I can work towards that myself.
Thank you for what you did. For loving. For showing me an example of Christs love. ❤
I’m taking a break from my 30 Day Letter Writing Challenge to vent about something. Frankly, I was going to take a break from it anyway today, in order to share some changes that have taken place in our household regarding discipline, etc…. I’ve had a few different fellow mamas ask me for some advice this past week and I thought I would share our new points/rewards/positive reinforcement system that has made some DRASTIC changes in our daily life here in the Land Of Testosterone. It actually surprised me how well it works.
But then I got a comment. An oh-so-casual, flippant comment. From a friend. Someone who I am sure meant what they said as a compliment. But it really irked me.
“I seriously hate you. You’re so skinny after having six kids!”
Look, I KNOW when folks say stuff like that, they are saying they are jealous of what they assume is just pure luck or simple genetics. They mean it as a NICE thing. I GET it.
But it really annoys the crap out of me.
Because it’s not luck or genetics. At all. Sure, back when I was 21 and had my first son and wore my pre-pregnancy jeans home from the hospital, THAT was luck and genetics. That was having the elastic body of a 20 year old. No doubt.
But now, at 33, this body takes work. A lot of work. Work which goes on even when I am pregnant. I stuck with walking and yoga throughout this pregnancy. I ate healthy. I don’t use pregnancy as an excuse to eat like a pig. What really threw me for a loop though was being put on bedrest the last three months of pregnancy. When I couldn’t be up preparing my own meals, was stuck eating whatever was made for me or delivered by friends. A lot of starches. Quite a few boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts. Etc… I fell off the wagon, so to speak. Because of the weakening of my muscles due to bedrest, eating a bunch of crap, and the simple fact I am now in my 30’s, getting back in shape was much harder this time.
So, when someone tells me they think I am “so lucky” to be skinny….it makes me want to scream. Because it sure aint luck. Trust me on this.
My day starts out before anyone else gets up. I peel my tired body outta bed and put in my kickboxing DVD. A straight hour workout at which the end I am literally dripping in sweat. Ugh. Also, because I have had 6 kids come out of my vajayjay, all the kicking and lunges and such sometimes makes me pee a lil. (You moms out there will understand.) So, I’ll ave to stop halfway through to change. It isn’t pretty is what I’m saying. But I know it’s worth it. It keeps me healthy, builds stamina and muscle tone,. and makes me FEEL great. After my workout, I shower, then eat some super uber exciting breakfast like a smoothie or eggwhites with hot sauce and veggies. I make everyone else delicious smelling cinnamon rolls or ham and egg sandwiches or chocolate chip pancakes and then I enjoy my low fat diet breakfast. Lunch is usually a salad. With water because I’m trying to lay off soda. Which is basically torment a torture to me because D Pepper and Vanilla Coke are my vices. If its nice out I’ll take the kids out for a walk or a hike after lunch. Or we play football or soccer or Frisbee or tag. Please keep in mind that before I go have this active fun with the Littles, I clean the entire house. Sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, laundry, taking care of the baby, etc etc…. There is no such thing as boredom or downtime in my life. Even when I am blogging or on FaceBook, I’m usually nursing the baby or cooking a meal, etc…. I often just leave my laptop open and answer messages as I run past.
Then comes dinner. I love taking care of my family. I love cooking for them. So, I do. Even for my roommate. I prepare these made-from-scratch dinners. Stuffed Italian chicken tenderloins with roasted veggies and garlic cheesy mashed potatoes and biscuits.
Then I eat a small piece of fish with some stir fried or steamed veggies. While my family enjoys the deliciousness. Once and awhile I’ll eat with them, but I avoid all starches. Which kinda defeats the point. Why bother eating yumminess without the cheesy garlic mashed potatoes? I do it because I like to be fit, healthy and in shape.
Today I am beginning the Insanity workout. For those of you who know what that is, you’ll know it’s going to kick my butt even more than the kickboxing does. But it’s worth it. Because at 33 with 6 kids, I have more stamina and energy than some people younger than me. Im proud of the hard work and dedication that I put into being in shape. I have a RIGHT to be proud. I EARNED this body. Plain and simple. So often I tend to shrug it off and make some joke about “Oh, the only reason Im skinny is the boys eat all the food in the house. Ha ha ha!” Why do I do that? Because I feel bad. I feel like it would somehow be rude of me to brag on myself for my hard work. But that’s stupid. If a person gets a promotion at work or a certificate in school they can brag. Curvy girls can brag about being curvy and proud. So why can’t I brag a bit about what I do to accomplish being skinny? Why are skinny girls hated on for being skinny? How many times have you heard the term “skinny bitch.”?
My natural body type is petite. So, that is how I am most comfortable being. Sometimes I am a bit envious of my curvy girlfriends with their full cleavage.(Mine barely fill an A cup. I own more padded bras than you need to know. It’s all an illusion. Sometimes I feel like my elbows and calves need a bit more padding because I am always hurting them bumping into stuff and it sucks. I find great beauty and sexiness in curvy girls. But that doesn’t make ME any less sexy.
We all are. Sexy, beautiful, ravishing, mesmerizing, wonderful, flawless women. I in no way mean to make this blog sound like I am any more or less attractive than anyone else. I’m not. I’m simply me. And proud of it.